COMMENTARY | COLUMNISTS | GEORGE MITROVICH

The N.Y. mayor, police commissioner and union leader

When the head of a union representing police officers in New York City, is at odds with the city's mayor, not over contract negotiations, but an accusation of not supporting the men and women in blue, choosing street protesters over police and being complicitous in the killing of two officers in Brooklyn, that’s intolerable.

But that is exactly what happened when Patrick Lynch, who heads the New York Patrolmen's Benevolent Association (PBA), leveled those scurrilous charges against Mayor Bill de Blasio.

In his arrogance, Lynch obviously dismisses the fact that while he may represent 22,000 police officers, de Blasio was elected with 73.3 percent of the vote, an overwhelming mandate from 1,026,168 New York City voters.

As The New York Times said on its editorial page, "The mayor’s plea for everyone to stand down, to put aside protests and bitter words, at least until the funerals are done, was an understandable bid for civic calm. ... Anything that even briefly silences the police union leader Patrick Lynch, whose response to the killings has been to slander Mr. de Blasio as a bloody-handed accomplice to murder, is worth supporting."

Lynch's conduct, in this instance, has been contemptible, as is anyone suggesting a link between the mayor and the tragic deaths of officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu.

Sadly, among those who joined Lynch in condemning de Blasio are former mayors Rudi Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg and George Pataki, former New York governor. It happens all three are Republicans, but surely they wouldn't join Lynch in his attacks just because de Blasio's a liberal Democrat, would they?

A police union leader acting as Lynch has is scandalous, no matter how politically "savvy" he may be in some media portrayals (including The Times). Lynch's conduct is far beyond the pale of acceptable and is reprehensible — and morally conscious police officers in the union's membership should say so.

Anyone?

Two officers being shot to death in cold blood by a crazed assassin is a terrible tragedy, and decent men and women mourn their deaths and regret the unimaginable pain their families, friends and colleagues are experiencing. That's where this should have ended.

But, clearly, in an age of social media and of 24/7 endless news cycles, good news always loses to bad. The equation is not close — and it’s not closing.

Politicians devoid of conscience and on the make, often aligned with Fox News and right-wing talk shows, will rush to judgment; blaming, as they have, the mayor, blaming the president, the protesters and liberals, for "creating an environment” where an assassin acts to destroy the lives of innocent police officers.

Thus does Patrick Lynch — who took an oath as a police officer to protect and serve — violate that sacred oath.

Shame on him. Shame on those officers who turned their backs on the mayor at Patrick's suggestion, an act Police Commissioner William Bratton criticized on CBS’s “Face the Nation”: “[de Blasio] is the mayor of New York. … He is there representing the citizens of New York to express their remorse and their regret at that death. It was very inappropriate.”

And to the litany of shame add members of the media, who bought into the narrative and caused the story’s explosion across the country and worldwide.

Lynch's conduct has been so egregious, that not satisfied telling patrolman to turn their backs on Mayor de Blasio, went on to instruct police families that if an officer dies in the line of duty, they should turn the mayor away from the funeral. (The families of officers Ramos and Liu said de Blasio would be welcome, demonstrating their dignity and Lynch’s cluelessness.)

True, police have had a terrible run and have taken big-time image hits from white officers killing black people in Ferguson, Mo., Staten Island, New York; and Cleveland, but the one-sided pro-media portrayals of protesters that began in Ferguson became pro-police after Brooklyn, exposing the media’s disregard of nuance in favor of fast, cheap headlines.

It became either love the protesters and hate the police, or love the police and hate the protestors.

Not everyone who protested white officers shooting blacks hate the police. Most know police officers have near-impossible jobs and society’s debt to those who protect and serve is very great, and share a concern that honorable law enforcement officers, in the great majority, would be seen as racists in dealings with men and women of color. (Indeed, the percentage of police officers unconsciously racist may be less than in the general population.)

Meanwhile, we know the police has image issues that aren’t going away because an out-of-control Patrick Lynch thinks Bill de Blasio is an accessory to murder.

If we’re counting police officers killed by black men versus black men killed by police, the comparison does not favor police. But this can’t be a numbers game because the societal challenge it represents isn’t going away. It is one that requires the best from all of us, citizens and police — beginning now.


George Mitrovich is a San Diego civic leader.

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